A few weeks ago, I had the chance to hear Peter Hedges talk in Des Moines as part of the Des Moines Public Library's AViD author series. He is often remembered best for his novel and screenplay "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," but he also wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for the movie "About a Boy" and the movie "Pieces of April" for which he wrote and directed.
Hedges was in town reading from his latest book "The Heights" which is a novel about Brooklyn Heights, his current neighborhood. As he was interviewed for this presentation, he said several things that made me think about life so I thought I would share them with you and then I will explain why his comments struck me.
"Life is messy. The messes I've made or walked into have been some of the most important periods of my life. I really love to write about people who are having problems. It is the gas of writing."
Hedges is married and the father of two teenagers, but said that he wanted to "write about a great marriage and how fragile and yet how resilient a great marriage can be."
"As I get older, I'm aware how lives can change. So I wanted to explore a marriage where they stopped trying to tell each other everything and what happens when secrets are held."
He said that he remembers fondly the advice of his father, a former Episcopal priest who is now 85. "Sheep lose their way one blade of grass at a time. They way you don't get lost is look up."
And Hedges said, "For me, the question I ask in my own life and am asking in the book is: What is enough? How much do we need? I think that is pertinent now, when we can't have all what we want."
Jann's Note: Hedges calls the book a "wake-up story." Learning how to age in this youth-oriented society takes a wake-up call. I have come to believe that couples need to be on similar paths or they are likely to grow apart. And we need to "look up" or be awake, alert, and present in order to pay attention to what is happening. Drifting through life is easy. Making intentional choices based on thoughtful reflection is hard–but makes all of the difference.
The journey to becoming a sage and to not get lost is to "look up." Here's to looking up!